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Poisoned apple, anybody? DSD, 21, and debt

(77 Posts)
Nettletheelf Mon 07-Dec-15 23:10:32

I'm a stepmum to a 21 year old girl and an 18 year old boy. Their dad and I have been married for seven years.

Both are at university. I love them both, but it hasn't always been easy. DH spoiled them after his divorce so they acquired some grabby/wheedling tendencies, which DSS has pretty much grown out of.

DSD is repeating her third year at university. It's a long course. She texted DH today saying the following:

1. She had £5 to last until 31 December.

2. She can't get a job because she has to study too hard.

3. She couldn't afford to buy Christmas presents.

4. Could she have some money please?

He called me at work, upset and keen to discuss it tonight. In the interest of full disclosure:

1. DSD chose to study in Scotland, where courses are longer.

2. DSD goes on the university ski trip every year. Average cost: £1500.

3. She gets a full loan plus a bursary of £2k per year and £150 per month from us.

4. She went to Paris last month, and to Oslo for the weekend in October.

5. She travels 200 miles by train regularly to see her boyfriend.

6. DSD inherited £10k from her grandmother last year, and spent it travelling the world this summer.

I'm not unsympathetic to her financial problems, and my suggestion to DH is that we give her a one off gift of cash to tide her over, with the downside that she has to answer some difficult questions and face up to reality. I feel that we'd be doing her a favour. Tough love.

I particularly want her to tell us what was going through her mind when she booked the skiing holiday, which she must have known she couldn't pay for, and why she found it advisable to visit Oslo, notorious for being one of the most expensive cities in the world. I'd also like her to tell us how she plans to manage her money from now on.

At the risk of sounding like an old gimmer, I didn't go on skiing holidays when I was a student. I couldn't afford it, and I knew it, so it never even entered my mind.

DH, on the other hand, wants to up the amount we give her each month. I disagree; I think that would be enabling bad behaviour, and she won't learn from it.

He thinks that my suggestion of giving her a one off helping hand with strings attached (the strings are, having the hard word from us to the effect that she can't afford to go skiing until she's earning a proper salary, that she'll have to rein back the expensive travel until she can afford it and that we want her to think hard about how silly she was to blow her entire inheritance instead of saving some of it) is cruel and 'having a go'.

Who is right? Am I a cruel stepmother? I thought that the answer was obvious: "cut your coat according to your cloth, and realise that we're not always going to bankroll you".

lljkk Mon 07-Dec-15 23:18:52

Rather than simple cash couldn't you arrange to send her food, pay her housing & utility bills?

Nettletheelf Mon 07-Dec-15 23:24:30

Thanks, it would be difficult, I think. We're 200 miles away so hard to send food. She appears to have paid for rent and utilities but says that she needs money for Christmas presents etc. (which we don't care about; she doesn't need to buy us anything).

Berthatydfil Mon 07-Dec-15 23:25:18

No you are not. At 21 she is old enough to realise that choices have consequences. She's chosen to spend all her money on fun, trips abroad etc and the consequence is she has no money. Seems fairly straightforward to me.
You aren't doing her any favours in the long run bailing her out with no strings attached as she will just do it again and come back for more next time.
Ok maybe her choice to go to uni in Scotland could be understood if it's a good Uni prestigious course etc but the rest of it she needs to take responsibility for.

ImperialBlether Mon 07-Dec-15 23:26:04

The easiest thing would be for you and your husband to have separate accounts (with a joint one for joint bills) and for him to pay for his children out of his own money. I agree that she's being really stupid with her money but I wouldn't like someone telling me how much I could give my child, either.

Catzpyjamas Mon 07-Dec-15 23:26:15

You're not a wicked stepmother. She is old enough to be managing her money better. If you give her cash, will she blow it?
You could always do an online shop for her, get her to fill a basket on Amazon for Christmas presents and you/DH will pay for it and book travel home for Christmas. Other than these essentials, I would be reluctant to give her any more and say that this is what happens when you live beyond your means.
Having said all that, if it was my DSS, DH would be handing him money with or without my agreement and I would be very irritated.
It doesn't get easier being a step parent to young adults sad

ImperialBlether Mon 07-Dec-15 23:27:04

I wouldn't give her anything for Christmas presents, whether I was her parent or her step-parent.

MrsLeighHalfpenny Mon 07-Dec-15 23:28:11

Not too hard to send food. Online shopping - most supermarkets will deliver anywhere in the country.
Christmas presents, christmas drinks etc are up tonher, but don't let her starve!

purpledasies Mon 07-Dec-15 23:33:50

Do students not have access to interest free overdrafts these days?

I think you're completely in the right about how to teach DSD to manage her money, and that a ski trip isn't something you should expect to be doing every year when you're not yet earning. Much better to give her a fixed amount and if she overspends then it runs out.

But I have been struggling a lot to get my DH to see things that way and what ought to be a perfectly simple conversation with DSD about student finance seems to be hugely emotionally laden for him - so still hasn't taken place - so fear you may be in for a tough ride.

Domino777 Mon 07-Dec-15 23:34:26

One of the perks of being a carefree student is being able to travel. Although doing it cheaply is key.

However she needs to take responsibility for her finances. Can you buy her an alvin hall book for Xmas to help her budget.

lljkk Mon 07-Dec-15 23:41:18

You can do an online supermarket shop & pay for delivery to her door. Ask her for a list of groceries she needs and conveniently don't order any expensive non-food items on the list.

Sainsburys used to do a paired card for students - the parents could top up the money on one card and it was credited to the other card, so the student could use it to buy food - I am not sure if they still do, but that could be an answer, if they do.

If this was one of my dses, they would definitely be getting the big lecture from dh and me - we have helped out when ds2's finances got a bit out of hand, but he got a stern lecture on budgeting, and has stayed within budget ever since.

Tbh, I don't think your dh is doing his dd any favours, if he is teaching her that she doesn't have to live within her means - is he intending to carry on bailing her out after university, when she's blown her wages on a holiday and can't afford the rent? Because that's where she could well be heading!

TheFairyCaravan Mon 07-Dec-15 23:42:36

DS2 (18) is in his first year at uni. He's doing nursing, after his rent and travel costs are paid he's left with £8. I do his shopping for him. I've got a Tesco delivery saver plan so I can have as many deliveries as I like. It cost £60 for the year, I have ours delivered on that too.

He's, also, got a part time job in Wetherspoons. He manages to fit in placements and uni work as well.

I would be having long, hard words with your DSD. She knows you will bail her out so she's taking the piss. The only way she'll stop, grow up and take responsibility for herself is if you stop the handouts.

MeridianB Tue 08-Dec-15 08:52:21

Op you sound super-reasonable. Your suggestion makes complete sense.

Of course you are up against Daddy not wanting his princess to be unhappy and wanting to leap to her rescue and get huge brownie points.

21 is certainly old enough to be managing her own money and learning that she needs to eat baked beans for a month if she blows her money on expensive foreign trips and travelling to see her BF. She had fun with the inheritance and now she needs to learn how to budget again.

You mention that she is repeating a year. Why? Is it because she is not working hard enough and/or is distracted by travel etc? Is she putting off her graduation because she doesn't know what to do after or wants to avoid work?

Does her mother help her financially?

A one-off sum to help her out sounds like a good response. Increasing her monthly allowance will be pouring money down the drain. I wouldn't get involved in Christmas gifts or groceries, either. Your DH should also give the same one-off amount to her brother to be fair. Could it be their Christmas present?

Your DH describing your approach as 'cruel' is just silly. Point out to him that it's in her interests to learn a basic life skill like managing money - everyone has to do it. It's enabling her, not being cruel. It's not as if you're saying he should cut her off without any support at all.

tomatotoad Tue 08-Dec-15 08:55:40

I think that you're quite right op. That's a massive amount of money for one person to have spent.

tomatotoad Tue 08-Dec-15 08:56:18

Does she also receive money from her Mum?

DoctorDoctor Tue 08-Dec-15 09:00:52

If she's having to repeat a year, that's definitely a sign she ought to be reining in all the travel. Tell her she can do cook people nice meals as their presents this year and you'll provide the ingredients smile

Wdigin2this Tue 08-Dec-15 09:02:08

If she's not too busy studying to go on holidays, she's not too busy to get a p/t job....just like the majority of students!
I know exactly how this feels, her DF has probably never said no to her in her life....and believe me when I say this is learned behaviour which will haunt him forever! What was she thinking, blowing £10k on traveling, well it's gone now and she'll probably live to regret it...but at 21, that should be her problem!
You and your DH need to get on the same page here, if she can't afford to buy Christmas gifts, then there won't be any. I agree with the suggestion of supermarket deliveries, allow a certain amount of money and ask her for a list of (food only) necessities, then order them to be delivered to her. Or offer her a small amount of extra money each month for a set number of months, but emphasise if she blows it and can't afford food.....she goes without!
Trust me when I say this assumption that DF is, and always will be financially responsible for his DD will become set in stone and will become the continuing norm in both their lives....and don't I bloody know it!!!!!

lunar1 Tue 08-Dec-15 09:04:15

I completely agree with your way of solving this. But ultimately you dh has brought her up to take no responsibility.

The likely outcome of all this is that as a young adult she could get herself into masses of debt over the next few years.

I'm sorry but I'd be finding ways to protect yourself and your assets from future bailouts by your dh.

MaybeDoctor Tue 08-Dec-15 09:05:42

It sounds to me as if she is trying to live the life of a rich kid (I knew them at university: came from big name public schools with credit card bills that went straight home to their parents) whereas it doesn't sound as if you/your DH have that kind of money.

She needs a bailout, plus a short, sharp shock of a conversation about salaries and lifestyles.

Wdigin2this Tue 08-Dec-15 09:07:40

I totally agree lunar! If the OP can't get her DH to deal sensibly with this, she should separate her finances now, before it's too late!

Bubbletree4 Tue 08-Dec-15 09:35:39

I'm not sure. I can sort of see her perspective as my brother was in a similar situation.

My db blew a lot of money at university in a similar way to your dsd after my parents got divorced when he was 13. He was pretty unhappy. After he left university he got a decent graduate job and is now very careful and sensible with money. He spends within his means and has grown up, has a wife and dc. It wasn't tough love that did it, it was simply growing up, earning a salary and living within that salary as by that stage there is no other choice. University is a kind of in between stage.

The thing about being grabby when people get divorced is common. My other brother said to me - outright, I cannot get any love or time off dad so therefore I will get as much money as I can off him.

I notice that your dsd is repeating a year and that rings alarm bells re tough love. I'm not sure she will be in a position for the tough love to work if she feels like she is already in a hole (financially and otherwise).

Personally, I think I would give money to sort her out for December, including a small Christmas present budget. Then I would wait until she's home around Christmas and have a talk with her. About finances, about everything, make sure she is ok. Try and make a plan.

The other thing is the holidays. When I finished university, I didn't go on holiday for several years (I didn't go on university holidays either, didn't know of such things!). My salary could not stretch to a holiday. Most people in their first permanent job could not afford a holiday, I don't know anyone who could. This is why I think I'd pay for the university ski trip if you have the means. Because after she's left, she definitely won't be able to afford any skiing holidays and they'd probably be more expensive than a group university trip. Also she will probably feel utterly miserable if her friends go skiing and she doesn't. It is hard if she is hanging out with people with more money.

I don't know. I do think it's a difficult situation. I know a student repeating a year currently and she is really miserable and depressed about it, understandably. Her mum is really worried about her.

MeridianB Tue 08-Dec-15 09:53:04

I agree with Wdigin - natural consequences of blowing £10K+ is that she cannot give Christmas presents.

Why bail her out for this when it is not essential?

If you give her money to buy them I guarantee she won't buy gifts for her Dad, mother or brother. She no doubt wants to buy for her boyfriend.

MackerelOfFact Tue 08-Dec-15 10:47:43

I'd probably give her some money (probably between £50-£150, depending how much you'd usually spend), but make it clear that would be HER Christmas present from you, and then that will be the last handout.

Blowing £10k in one Summer, even on travelling, is extortionate. If she was away for 10 weeks, that's still about £150 a day - it sounds like she was on a long luxury holiday rather than backpacking and staying in hostels!

When does she break up for Christmas? She can find seasonal work during the holidays to tide her over, if she doesn't have time during term. Instead of 'travelling' in Summer, she can work (even if it's abroad, so 'travelling' at the same time).

MackerelOfFact Tue 08-Dec-15 10:52:00

Also, if she's studying so much that she can't work, yet still managed to fail her third year, I'd question whether she was really coping that well with the work and if she was even likely to graduate.

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